Design and Innovation for Sustainability MDes/PgCert/PgDip


Design and Innovation for Sustainability

The Design and Innovation for Sustainability course aims to address the engagement of design-led thinking with the business and social agenda for sustainable development. It is about rethinking and re engaging existing paradigms to stimulate new futures. Uniquely it does this through a focus on the multiple perspectives of Design, Management, Engineering and Science and their engagement with innovation and sustainability.

Students are asked to pose questions in relation to the global context of design, consumption & production. Sustainable solutions, interventions in response to these issues are then explored and interrogated.

Students are introduced to ecodesign tools, design-led thinking tools and methods of developing project and programme strategies. This equips students with requisite technical knowledge and skills to achieve more sustainable interventions. This course encourages design-led thinking and innovation through first-hand experiences from business, engineering and design perspectives. This heightened awareness of other disciplines provides students with a platform to apply design thinking across disciplinary boundaries in industry.

Course overview

The course comprises eight one-week assessed modules, a group project and an individual project.  

Group project

The group project provides students with the opportunity to take responsibility for a consultancy-type project, while working under academic supervision. Success is dependent on the integration of various activities and working within agreed objectives, deadlines and budgets. It addresses a real-life challenge in Design and Innovation and develops and refines students’ engagement with sustainability through the development of organisational, management and teamwork skills. For part-time students, a negotiated individual project usually replaces the group project.

The dissertation project (for part-time students) has similar goals to the group project without the specific focus on group working.

Industrially orientated, our team projects have support from external organisations. These include: Airbus, Atkins, Altro, Bromford Industries, Benaa Group, BT, Caterpillar, Centre for Process Innovation, Cisco, DPD, Dragon Rouge, Engineering Photonics Centre, Environcom, ERA Foundation, GKN Hybrid Power, HS Marston Aerospace, Ihsan Center, Labinal Power Systems, Maier Group, Novartis, Okaz Organization for Press and Publications, Operations Excellence Institute, Rolls-Royce, Safran Power, SENTi, SPI Laser, St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Ultra Precision Centre, and Whirlpool.

As a result of external engagement Cranfield students enjoy a higher degree of success when it comes to securing employment. Prospective employers value the student experience where team working to find solutions to industrially based problems are concerned.

Watch video: Paul Ewers, Visteon Engineering Services, talks about his involvement in the Manufacturing Group Project at Cranfield University.

Watch video: Manufacturing MSc students talk about their experience of the Manufacturing Group Projects at Cranfield University. 

Individual Project

The individual project provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to carry out independent research, think and work in an original way, contribute to knowledge and overcome genuine problems in Design and Innovation for Sustainability. Many of the projects are supported by external organisations.


The course comprises eight one-week assessed modules, a group project and an individual project


  • Principles of Sustainability
    Module LeaderDr Paul Burgess - Reader
    • Definitions and models of sustainability, and the role of stability, resistance and resilience
    • Human well-being and ecosystem services; the development of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the UK National Ecosystem Assessment
    • Ecosystem processes and services: energy transfer; climate; geomorphology and soil formation; carbon, nutrient and oxygen cycles; water supply and quality; the link between processes and services
    • The role of biodiversity, population regulation and dampening and amplifying feedback loops; the Gaia hypothesis
    • Approaches to address complex processes such as the role of economics, legislation and stakeholder engagement.  Methods for identifying appropriate stakeholders
    • Case studies of the application of the framework in practice: renewable energy, management of wetlands, and management of montane forests in Tanzania.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

    • Critique the concept of sustainability
    • Explain the development and use of the Ecosystem Service Approach in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
    • Explain how human well-being depends on ecosystem processes and services
    • Explain the key ecosystem processes of energy transfer, climate regulation, soil formation, and carbon, oxygen, nutrient and water cycling
    • Critique the role of biodiversity, population levels and feedback loops in ecosystem service provision
    • Explain methods for describing sustainability including stability, resistance, and resilience
    • Explain how economics, legislation and stakeholder engagement can be used to help optimise resource use and allocation
    • Explain how the ecosystem service approach can be applied in practice.
  • Principles of Sustainability
    Module LeaderDr Paul Burgess - Reader
    • Moving from an “Empty World” to a “Full World”
    • The Ecosystem Service Approach (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and UK National Ecosystem Assessment)
    • Ecosystem processes and succession; the role of energy; feedback systems; biodiversity and system restoration
    • Using an ecosystem approach: quantifying trade-offs and synergies; improving water and nutrient management, reducing greenhouse gases emissions, enhancing stability, resistance and resilience
    • Introduction to the circular economy: opportunities for businesses; opportunities for consumers
    • How design, manufacturing practice and management can contribute to a circular economy
    • Case study: trade-offs, synergies, and opportunities to enhance well-being and ecosystem service provision in terms of energy, food, feed and wood for a case study area.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

    • Critique the “ecosystem services”, “circular economy”, and “per capita energy use” approaches
    • Critique associated terms such as “human well-being”, “sustainability”, and “biodiversity”
    • Explain the role of energy and feed-back systems in natural systems
    • Explain how an ecosystem service approach can help society to identify and make decisions regarding the use of ecological resources, with a focus on biodiversity, greenhouse gases, nutrient loss, and water use.
    • Explain how we can enhance the stability, resistance and resilience of natural systems.
    • Explain how the “circular economy” provides commercial opportunities
    • Explain how industrial activities such as design and manufacturing can promote a circular economy
    • Use a per capita approach to explore the synergies between food, feed, wood, and renewable energy production to guide decision making and identify opportunities in the context of a case-study.
  • Consumer Trends for Design and Innovation for Sustainability
    • Market research methods; market sensing; trend analysis; empathic design
    • Lifestyle Analysis; personal cultures; group lifestyle cultures; lifestyles factor abstraction; observation techniques
    • Co-design
    • Data Gathering and Analysis Techniques; life observation; activity Simulation methods; developing prototypes; applying questionnaires
    • Setting up and carrying out a Customer Lifestyle Observation Exercise.
    Intended learning outcomes
    • On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:
    • Develop a knowledge and understanding of new and established deep insight methods in studying user
    • Develop the ability to select and apply appropriate research methods to explore customer needs and desires
    • Understand and interpret data obtained and identify innovation drivers for end-consumers
    • Foster and understanding and knowledge of how to apply research information to applications within the
      commercial environment
    • Demonstrate a knowledge of new and established deep methods in studying user behaviour
    • Determine appropriate research methods to explore customer needs and desires
    • Interpret data obtained and identify innovation drivers for sustainability
    • Apply research information to applications within the commercial environment.
  • Design and Brand Management
    • Visual communication interpretation
    • Cultures of imagery
    • Graphic production methods
    • Theoretical and practical models of visual research 
    • Research methodologies in Graphic Design
    • Thematic approaches to problem solving
    • Relationships between audience and message 
    • Principles of branding and association
    • Corporate identity
    • Brand stakeholders
    • Brand communication methods
    • External communication within corporate structures
    • Stakeholders 
    • Measurement of success.

    This module will involve teaching input from University of the Arts London staff.

    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

    • Effectively apply visual messages to meet commercial objectives
    • Determine and communicate value systems relevant to corporate communication
    • Make judgements within expressions of contemporary communication media
    • Organise creation of visual communications towards branding objectives.
  • Creative Enterprise and Entrepreneurship
    Module LeaderDr Stephanie Hussels - Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship, Full-time MBA Director & Co-Director, BGP
    • Entrepreneurial risk, performance and environment
    • Business planning techniques and their application in entrepreneurial ventures
    • Venture strategy in dynamic markets
    • Start-up and resources to exploit a profit opportunity
    • The evolution of the venture and managing growth
    • Protecting and securing intellectual capital: IPR and antitrust law
    • Financial management for new ventures: financing a start-up
    • The entrepreneurial financing process: buying and selling a venture.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

    • Understand the key stages and challenges involved in identifying opportunities and strategies for business start-ups
    • Manage and finance the early stages of new venture development and growth
    • Evaluate, research, write, and present business plans using their knowledge of the entrepreneurial process.
  • Managing Innovation and New Product Development
    Module LeaderProfessor Keith Goffin - Professor of Innovation and New Product Development
    • Introduction: elective content, style of teaching and learning; expectations of students and faculty; project teams; course assessment; reading; etc
    • Understanding Innovation: the need for innovation in the service, manufacturing, public and other sectors
    • Creating Customer-focused Ideas: understanding customers’ hidden needs through enhanced methods for market research
    • ‘Auditing Innovation Performance’: determining how innovative an organization is, in terms of not only its output of new products and services but also its internal processes
    • Prioritisation: Methods for assessing the technical, market and financial risks of innovation projects
    • Implementation and new product development: how to define and quickly implement concepts for new products, services and processes
    • People and Organisation: building a culture of innovation
    • Developing an Innovation Strategy
    • Boosting Innovation Performance.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

    • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the nature of innovation – identified by Michael Porter as one of the two most important business processes (with marketing) – and be able to identify the relevance and potential for innovation within an organisation and/or network
    • Critically evaluate appropriate (quantitative and qualitative) data on the performance of an organisation and generate ideas for boosting innovation performance
    • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the key tools and techniques for managing innovation, know where to find information on leading edge approaches, and have the ability to critically evaluate, select and systematically apply these in actual business situations
    • Demonstrate fundamental understanding of the people issues when applying and managing innovation, including where there can be political, cognitive and other barriers to overcome.
  • Whole System Design
    Module LeaderDr Fiona Charnley - Lecturer in Sust Product & Service Desig
    • A framework of ecodesign: history and definitions
    • Strategies and drivers for the integration of environmental considerations in product and process development
    • Lifecycle (systems) thinking; tools and techniques for environmental improvement; integrated product and service perspectives toward sustainability;
    • Frameworks for eco-innovation; resource productivity and factor 10
    • Product - service - systems (PSS); design, society and ethics; practical examples of PSS design activity
    • Principles and practice of eco-design: material selection, energy consumption, design for disassembly, material recovery, reuse, repair and recyclability
    • Case studies demonstrating the adoption of a holistic approach to more innovative and sustainable solutions.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

    • Identify the design trade-offs and demonstrate a knowledge of methods to address the more sustainable development of new products
    • Critically evaluate the definitions and scope of design for sustainability from different technical, environmental and social perspectives
    • Explain the methods used, trade-offs considered and significance of using life-cycle techniques for the appraisal of product and process development options
    • Explore and synthesise concepts of design responsibility and the ethical agenda of designing for society
    • Develop a systemic understanding of the link between design activity, environment and society and the concept of  ‘product service systems’ as a framework for organisational activity
    • Demonstrate an understanding of case studies from across design disciplines that have adopted a holistic approach to the design of more innovative and sustainable solutions.
  • Technology, Environment and Society
    Module LeaderDr Philip Longhurst - Reader
    • Ecological Modernisation, definition, key aspects, objectives and methodology
    • Development of associated policy frameworks, market failure, the role of governments, policies and mechanisms to address this
    • Innovation: Technology Development, transfer, adoption and diffusion
    • Innovation and sustainability, utility which process offers in this context, drivers and barriers
    • Integrated Sustainable Technology Assessment in context
    • Clusters, technology road-maps and the development of sustainable technologies: Renewable energy.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

    • Identify and understand theories of technological change, e.g. linear, induced, path-dependent, evolutionary.
    • Appreciate the role of technological change in economic development, environmental protection and transitions to ecological modernisation
    • Understand the role of technological change in achieving transition to a low carbon economy
    • Give examples and explain technology options and policy initiatives to stimulate transitions, e.g. to a low carbon economy
    • Propose and concisely justify a proposal for a low-carbon initiative.
  • Programme and Project Management
    Module LeaderDr Ip-Shing Fan - Senior Lecturer in Enterprise Systems
    • Project and Programme Management
    • PM Tools and Techniques
    • IT Project Management
    • An introduction to Prince 2
    • An introduction to Managing Successful Programmes
    • Project Complexity and Risk
    • Project Management simulation
    • IT Project Readiness
    • Organisation and People issues.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Understand the nature of project and programme management
    • Appreciate the recognised approaches to project and programme management
    • Understand project complexity and risk
    • Understand characteristics of IT projects
    • Appreciate the dynamics of project execution. Understand the basic concepts of project and programme management
    • Understand the tools and techniques required to manage a successful project implementation
    • Understand common approaches to project and programme management
    • Understand the characteristics of IT projects
    • Explain the issues surrounding the management of risk
    • Appreciate the complexity in project execution.


Taught modules 40%
Group projects* 20%
Individual research project 40%

Start date, duration and location

Start date: October

Duration: Full-time PgCert - one year, Part-time PgCert - two years, Full-time PgDip - one year, Part-time PgDip - two years

Teaching location: Cranfield


There are numerous benefits associated with undertaking a postgraduate programme of study within the Manufacturing and Materials Department at Cranfield University. These include:

  • study in a postgraduate-only environment where Masters' graduates often go on to secure positions in full-time employment in their chosen field, or undertake academic research
  • receive instruction from leading academics as well as industrial practitioners
  • dedicated support for off-campus learners including extensive information resources managed by Cranfield University's library
  • consultancy to companies supporting their employees on part-time programmes, in relation to individual projects.

Informed by industry

Our courses are designed to meet the training needs of industry and have a strong input from experts in their sector. These include:

  • Aspire Measurements
  • BRE
  • KTN Network
  • LA Design
  • ViaDynamics.

Your teaching team

You will be taught by a wide range of subject specialists at Cranfield, and practitioners from industry, who draw on their research expertise and industrial experience to provide a stimulating learning experience.

Facilities and resources

The School of Energy, Environment and Agrifood operates facilities and associated equipment which are often unique to Cranfield. Students on the Design and Innovation for Sustainability course benefit from this infrastructure. Furthermore, with Cranfield being exclusively postgraduate and having one of the best staff-to-student ratios, students on the programme have the 'space' to think creatively and to share their ideas with fellow students and academic colleagues.

Entry Requirements

Candidates must possess, or be expected to achieve, a First or Second class UK Honours degree in a relevant science, engineering or related discipline, or the international equivalent of these UK qualifications. Other relevant qualifications, together with significant experience, may be considered.

English Language

If you are an international student you will need to provide evidence that you have achieved a satisfactory test result in an English qualification. The minimum standard expected from a number of accepted courses are as follows:

IELTS - 6.5

TOEFL - 92 

Pearson PTE Academic - 65

Cambridge English Scale - 180

Cambridge English: Advanced - C

Cambridge English: Proficiency - C

In addition to these minimum scores you are also expected to achieve a balanced score across all elements of the test. We reserve the right to reject any test score if any one element of the test score is too low.

We can only accept tests taken within two years of your registration date (with the exception of Cambridge English tests which have no expiry date).

Students requiring a Tier 4 (General) visa must ensure they can meet the English language requirements set out by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and we recommend booking a IELTS for UKVI test.


Home EU Student Fees

MDes Full-time - £8,000

MDes Part-time - £1,500 *

PgDip Full-time - £6,400

PgDip Part-time - £1,500 *

PgCert Full-time - £3,200

PgCert Part-time - £1,500 *

Overseas Fees

MDes Full-time - £17,500

MDes Part-time - £17,500 **

PgDip Full-time - £14,000

PgDip Part-time - £14,000 **

PgCert Full-time - £7,000

PgCert Part-time - £10,800 **


The annual registration fee is quoted above. An additional fee of £1,300 per module is also payable.


Students will be offered the option of paying the full fee up front, or to pay in four equal instalments at six month intervals (i.e. the full fee to be paid over the first two years of their registration). 

Fee notes:

  • The fees outlined apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2016 and 31 July 2017.
  • All students pay the tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
  • A deposit may be payable, depending on your course.
  • Additional fees for extensions to the agreed registration period may be charged and can be found below.
  • Fee eligibility at the Home/EU rate is determined with reference to UK Government regulations. As a guiding principle, EU nationals (including UK) who are ordinarily resident in the EU pay Home/EU tuition fees, all other students (including those from the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) pay Overseas fees.


To help students in finding and securing appropriate funding we have created a funding finder where you can search for suitable sources of funding by filtering the results to suit your needs. Visit the funding finder.

Prestige Scholarship

The Prestige Scholarship provides funding of up to £11,000 to cover up to £9k fees and a potential contribution to living expenses. This scholarship has been designed to attract exceptional candidates to Cranfield University so we welcome applications from UK or EU graduates with a first-class honours undergraduate degree. Prestige Scholarships are available for all MSc courses in the Energy, Environment and Agrifood themes.

Merit MSc Bursary

The Merit MSc Bursary provides funding of up to £5,000 towards tuition fees. Applicants should be UK or EU graduates with a first class honours, 2:1 honours or in exceptional circumstances 2:2 honours undergraduate degree in a relevant subject. Merit MSc Bursaries are available for all MSc courses in the Energy, Environment and Agrifood themes.

International MSc Bursary

The International MSc Bursary provides funding of up to £5,000 towards tuition fees. Applicants should be from outside the EU with a first class honours or upper second class honours undergraduate degree or equivalent in a relevant subject. International MSc Bursaries are available for all MSc courses in the Energy, Environment and Agrifood themes.

Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS)

The Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS) is a funding programme providing affordable tuition fee and maintenance loans for full-time UK/EU students studying technology-based MSc courses.

Conacyt (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia)

Cranfield offers competitive scholarships for Mexican students in conjunction with Conacyt (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia) in science, technology and engineering.

Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme

Students from developing countries who would not otherwise be able to study in the UK can apply for Commonwealth Shared Scholarships for Master’s study, jointly supported by UK universities.

Application Process

Online application form. UK students are normally expected to attend an interview and financial support is best discussed at that time. Overseas and EU students may be interviewed by telephone.

Career opportunities

Successful students secure positions where knowledge, and experience of design, innovation, sustainability and management are essential attributes to engaging in new and emergent agendas. The course provides essential attributes in reframing and expanding the ways individuals and organisations think about sustainability through a design-led approach.

The primary focus of Centre for Competitive Creative Design (C4D) is embedding state-of-the-art design-led innovation practice, developed through research and industry collaboration, within business and education to improve commercial performance and develop future innovation leaders.

Design Programmes in Competitive Creative Design (C4D)

Dr Fiona Charnley, a director of Design Programme in Competitive Creative Design (C4D) at Cranfield University, shares moments from engaging group projects in collaboration with industry.